25. Mark 15:2-5
Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” He answered him, “You say so.” Then the chief priests accused him of many things. Pilate asked him again, “Have you no answer? See how many charges they bring against you.” But Jesus made no further reply, so that Pilate was amazed.
Why is Pilate amazed? Can he simply not believe that Jesus wouldn’t want to defend himself against all these charges? Does he find it hard to understand why the religious authorities have so much against this young rabbi? Is he having a hard time imagining this silent figure as a king? Why is Pilate amazed?
I think it’s because he has never met someone so entirely beyond the political struggle and strife that is part and parcel of everyday life. By “political” I don’t mean just “governmental.” Rather, I mean it in the original sense of its root – polis – Greek for “people.”
To be a person is, I believe, to be insecure. We don’t know where we came from or where we will go. We don’t have any way of assessing our tangible value and worth. We have no means by which to justify or secure our existence. We are, in short, vulnerable, contingent, and mortal…and for all of these reasons, insecure. Because of that insecurity, we are always watching, gauging, assessing and judging perceived threats and opportunities all around us.
And so Pilate, I suspect, is quite familiar with the plotting and wrangling of the religious authorities. And he is used to rebels and bandits threatening to power of the state. Indeed, should Jesus turn out to be one of these, he will happily make an example of him. But what he is not used to, perhaps, is Jesus’ self-possession. For here is one – the only one in history – who has found the antidote to human insecurity: complete and utter trust in God. Jesus knows who he is, you see, because he knows whose he is. He has been tempted to trust himself, others, political alliances, religious compromises, and all the rest. And he has chosen to remain dependent on God for his good, for his future, for his identity.
In this way he is, as Paul describes, the “second Adam” (Rom. 5). For whereas Adam and Eve thirst for independence apart from their relationship with God, Jesus embraces his dependence on God and discovers himself through that relationship of trust and love. For this reason he has no need to defend himself against false charges. For this reason he need not fear this Roman governor. For this reason the future itself no longer holds any terror. Because he knows who he is – God’s child, adored, commissioned, sent, beloved, and destined to redeem all humanity from the clutches of an original insecurity that leads to so much brokenness and death.
And Pilate is amazed.
Prayer: Dear God, immerse us again in our identity as your beloved children and grant us the courage to look to you in all times of need. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Post image: James Tissot, “Jesus Before Pilate For the First Time” (detail), 1886-94, Brooklyn Museum.